Originally built in 1571 for Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, Fort Santiago or Fuerza de Santiago is the oldest Spanish fortress in the Philippines and one of the major attractions inside Intramuros in capital Manila. The landmark appeared as a pit stop in Amazing Race Asia 2.
The fort used to be the site of the kingdom of Rajah Suleiman, the Muslim king who ruled during the pre-Hispanic Manila. It was named after Spanish patron saint Santiago Matamoros (James, Slayer of the Moors). It was a main port for the Manila Galleon, a spice trade between Europe and the Americas that lasted for 333 years.
The fort functioned as the military base of the Spanish, American, British, and Japanese regimes. It was also the site of several major battles in Philippine history, including the Battle of Manila. During WWII, the Japanese tortured killed hundreds of people inside the fort, then known as Kempeitai. The Americans restored the fort into a public park in 1950.
Today, among the Fort’s most well-preserved attractions are the Japanese-era M4 Sherman tank, WWII artillery and underground tunnels used by the Japanese, the former Spanish dungeon of the main square or Plaza de Armas, and national hero Jose Rizal’s former prison, Rizal Shrine. The bronze footsteps on the fort’s ground represent the final steps Rizal took from his cell to his execution site. There is also a light and sound museum narrating the heroic life and the final poem (or Mi Ultimo Adios) of Rizal.
Apart from attracting hordes of tourists for its history, the fort is also a renowned wedding and picnic destination for its well-manicured gardens, traditional calesas or Spanish-era horse-drawn carriages, and guardia sibil or guards dressed to their original attire during the Spanish colonial rule.
Shopping and dining
The 10 chambers of the fort now house a restaurant, a souvenir shop showcasing Filipino crafts, and an information center from where tours and events in Intramuros can be scheduled.
Fees and opening hours
The fort is open daily, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entrance fees: adults P75, students/children/teachers P50, free of charge for disabled and senior citizens. Students, teachers and seniors must bring a valid I.D. For more information, visit: http://www.intramurosadministration.com/fort.htm.
How to get there
Fort Santiago can be reached through a taxi from any point in Manila (taxi flag down rate: P30). It can also be accessed by foot, pedicab (bicycle with sidecar, P20-P25) or tricycle (P30) from Intramuros’ entrance beside Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. Jeepneys (P7) and FX shared taxis (P10) with tags going to Pier 15 also pass by Intramuros. If you are to ride one, ask to be dropped off right in front Fort Santiago, fronting Manila Cathedral.